Pakistan’s Ass-Kicking Superhero Wears a Burka

Takepart.comJuly 28, 2013

Mild-mannered teacher by day, fighter for justice by night. It’s almost like Wonder Woman, except way more covered up, and this superhero fights for girls’ education.

The Burka Avenger is a new cartoon series out of Pakistan that very openly addresses the Taliban’s attacks on girls trying to get an education. That sounds like a story that would be far too adult for young children, but the way the cartoon presents those themes is surprisingly empowering and kid-friendly.

To fight the bad guys, the Avenger does a lot of cool Matrix-style acrobatics and is an expert martial artist in Takht Kabaddi, using books and pens as weapons.

But she’s especially cool for the way she uses the burka. When it’s associated with the Taliban, the burka can be seen as a symbol of oppression against women, but the Avenger actually uses it for personal empowerment—it keeps her real identity secret, allowing her to fight against the evildoers. And during the day, when she’s known as Jiya, she takes it off.

Not everyone is too jazzed about the Avenger’s choice of costume, however. Some think it sends the wrong message, that a woman has to wear a symbol of oppression in order to succeed. But the show’s head animator, Taha Iqbal, told BBC the character’s reasons for wearing the burka have nothing to do with subservience.

“Besides she has to kick ass,” he said. “Tight leather pants are hardly practical for that purpose.”

It’s tough not to draw comparisons between the main character in The Burka Avenger and Pakistan’s Malala Yousefzai—the former seems to be at least part of the inspiration for the latter. The 16-year-old activist who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, is famous for saying, “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one.” She wasn’t exaggerating.

The Burka Avenger will start airing on Pakistan’s Geo TV this August.

Related stories on TakePart:

Malala Yousufzai to Taliban: I’m Walking Here (VIDEO)

Malala Yousafzai to the United Nations: Bullets Failed to Silence Us

Pakistani Schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s Path From Assassination to Recovery

Malala Yousafzai: Women in Pakistan Live on the Edge of Equality

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